California Prisoner on Hunger Strike Dies

A 27-year-old prisoner, Christian Alexander Gomez, died on February 2 while on a hunger strike to protest access to health and legal services, sanitary food and other amenities in a segregation unit in California’s Corcoran State Prison. Gomez was a convicted murderer and died six days after he and 31 other inmates began refusing food. He was found unresponsive in his cell and sent to an outside hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Gomez was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder and attempted murder. He and thousands of other California prisoners have been staging hunger strikes since July, with the first protests occurring against isolation units at Pelican Bay State Prison and continuing throughout California’s state corrections systems. Prison officials estimated that about 4,000 prisoners were participating in October at the height of the outbreak but advocates for prisoners estimate that as many as 12,000 went on hunger strike.

Back in May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that overcrowding in California prisons was causing “needless suffering and death. The state has been ordered to reduce the number of prisoners from 140,000 to 110,000, which would still be far over the maximum capacity for state facilities. Since 2006, the state’s prison system, which is in receivership, has been supervised by the U.S. District Court for Northern California.

Activists have questioned why the news of Gomez’s death has only been made public slowly. Corcoran did not publicly announce Gomez’s death when it occurred. Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said that Corcoran was “only obligated to report an inmate’s death to his next of kin.”

Gomez and the other inmates were on hunger strike to protest Corcoran State Prison’s administrative segregation unit. Prisoners are held there while awaiting hearings on infractions they have been accused of committing while in prison. According to a spokeswoman for Corcoran, Theresa Cisneros, prisoners in the unit have limited access to legal services and an exercise yard but none to radio or television programs and are not allowed to initiate new education or rehabilitation programs; they have access to nurses and doctors 24 hours a day. As there are often no beds at the new units to which they are to be transferred, prisoners can remain in the administrative segregation unit for as long as six months.

Thornton said that the hunger strike at Corcoran ended on February 13. But prison activist Isaac Ontiveros of Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity told Reuters that “there are still prisoners who are striking there.” Activists are calling for a National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners across the US on Monday to call attention to prisons conditions in the US and also California’s high incarceration rate.


Related Care2 Coverage

4,000 Prisoners On Hunger Strike In California

California Prisoners End Hunger Strike

Prisoners Near Death in California Hunger Strike

Photo by Smath via flickr


JOSE Honr5 years ago


New G.
W. C7 years ago

Agree with previous comment.

Sarah M.
Sarah M7 years ago

Prisoners are human beings and they deserve to be treated as such, no matter what they have been convicted of, this is so sad because these are the lengths they are going just to be heard. (By the way, have you educated yourself on recent statistics of wrongly convicted felons--it's frightening how messed up our judicial system is).

Jay Williamson
Jay w7 years ago

wish i could feel sad but he was a convicted murderer he took someone elses life he deserves to be in the ground. i dont know why people think prisoners should have radio and tv among otha things they are in prison to be punished not to have a holiday

Mark Donners
Mark Donner7 years ago

"If a person chooses to protest by not eating they are responsible for the outcome" That's also what the Nazis and the gulag slave drivers said when they gave their prisoners watery gruel. So you blindly accept the propaganda that american prisons are doing "rehabilitation"? That's the last thing the multi billion dollar american prison system wants. They want more recruits, which is why they will jail somebody for years with murderers for minor charges such as shoplifting , usually indigents and children. Prison contractors get billions from taxpayers and prison slave labor, with kickbacks to corrupt judges. It's a giant mafia racket. There's a reason why the american prison system is the biggest in the world, with bail bondsmen, prison contractors and guards, cops, corrupt lawers all in on the take, it's an assembly line designed to create more criminals for profit. Underaged children are sent to juvies, kept on mind drugs and given prison records to ensure they never get decent jobs and that prisons are a revolving door for them. That is 90% of the thuggish american policeman's job. Justice system criminals are not interested in the hard core criminals of society, those are their bread and butter.

Joy Jin
Joy Jin7 years ago

Horrible. Criminals are still people. They don't deserve to be treated like animals. They deserve all their rights.

Chelsea Carlson
Chelsea Carlson7 years ago

Radio and TV are not god given rights. They have access to medical and legal counsel. He was not mistreated or abused. He could go outside and exercise each day. Prison is not a spa nor is it a taxpayer paid college. Some education and rehabilitation programs are great. Prisoners need to be able to get out and work when they are released. Focus on work skills and community skills. If a person wants a degree, they need to do what the rest of the world does, apply for loans or work to pay for it. TV and radio are bonuses to life but in no way are they life. Prisons have libraries and my guess is he still had access to that.
If a person chooses to protest by not eating they are responsible for the outcome. He made his point and died for it.

Jay G.
Jay G.7 years ago

As human beings, we should make sure that other human being are safe, stable and are living in ways that show that we as a humanity understand human rights and responsibilities. All humans, all the time. Yes, we who still have our sanity, health, are of legal adult age and agency are our brothers/sisters keeper. Forget that little rule and you throw your humanity out with the garbage.

Blaise G.
Blaise G7 years ago

Considered a crime of passion. While I was working on a film project back in the 1990's in Hollywood, I came across a very talented man who had served seventeen years of a twenty five year sentence for the murder of his best friend.

He murdered his best friend during a knife fight over his girlfriend whom the best friend had been secretly seeing. He and I spoke at length about this horrible incident and he was now in his forties and had had many, many "years" to contemplate what he had done. He of course was very sorry for what had transpired and in my view, I see that based on what he had told me what had happened, that BOTH of these once young men were at fault. BOTH chose to fight each other according to the story. And one paid one way, and another paid in another way. Both lost.

Blaise G.
Blaise G7 years ago

As it was, he served his time for the crime that he committed. He was sorry. He was allowed to come back into our society and show that he could function as a contributing member of our society. I am not saying that ALL murderes can come back into the main-stream, but many can. Or in the least, even if we choose to segregate people who do not or cannot function in an acceptable manner within the boundaries of accepted behavior in OUR society, then why can't they be housed in a way that is still compassionate, accepting, and allows prisoners the chance to work, play, get educated, and although still housed behind secure walls, to at least give back in some fashion to society?